Josh Sargent has revealed how breaking into the Werder Bremen first team took longer than he expected and that he has been taking advice from Claudio Pizarro.
Sargent joined Bremen upon turning 18 in February 2018, but it was another 10 months before he was handed his senior club debut, despite having already scored two goals in six senior international appearances for the USA.
"It was my first professional club, so I didn’t know exactly what to expect," Sargent told ESPN’s Raphael Honigstein. "It definitely didn’t go as planned, as I thought it would as I developed. I thought I was super good, you know coming into the club, that I would be with the first team. I found it lot harder than I thought it would be. I had to start out with the second team and prove myself there first, and now I’m trying to prove myself with the first team. It’s been difficult and it’s pushing me every day, but it’s good."
Watch: Josh Sargent's Bundesliga adventure got off to a belated bang late in 2018
After rattling off seven goals in 12 Regionalliga appearances for the Bremen reserves, Sargent made his long-awaited senior debut as a second-half substitute in a Bundesliga match against Fortuna Düsseldorf on 7 December 2018. He famously scored with his first touch, and has since added one goal and eight further outings to his top-flight résumé. His only start to date came in the Matchday 23 draw with VfB Stuttgart in which he was replaced on the hour by veteran striker Pizarro, the source of some invaluable words of advice and encouragement.
"[Claudio] Pizarro gave me the best advice and helped me feel the most comfortable and confident in myself," explained Sargent, whose performances were recently rewarded with a new long-term Werder contract. "You can definitely see he’s older than all of us, but at the same time that’s a good thing with his class. He’s not as fast as everybody and as strong as everybody, so I think his positioning is one of the most important things for him, so I’m trying my best to learn from him about that."
Watch: Claudio Pizarro reacts to Josh Sargent's debut goal
Sargent could scarcely wish for a better muse. Nineteen years the American’s senior, Pizarro has made some 466 appearances in the Bundesliga to date, winning six league titles and scoring 195 goals - what was, until recently, the all-time record for a non-German player. He also ranks as the oldest marksman in Bundesliga history and the first to score in 21 consecutive calendar years. Enjoying his fourth spell with the club, the Peruvian is an integral part of Werder’s rich history.
"Bremen is a very traditional club with a lot of history," Sargent said of his perceptions of the four-time Bundesliga champions. "The fans and the staff and everybody here is like a huge family. I know that sounds like a cliche or whatever, but they really do make you feel comfortable. Everybody’s there for you and supporting you, and that’s one of the great characteristics of the club and the city."